Human Flower Project

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hawaii’s Delegation to Selma

A feminist and psychologist in London amplifies our story of how leis joined the March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and others wore leis as they marched from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965.

Photo: WFA/Associated Press, via the Guardian

Many thanks to Nona Ferdon for filling in some of the gaps in our story of flowers in the history-making March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965. We noted that several of the Civil Rights marchers, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wore leis.

“You wondered how they got there,” Nona writes of the floral garlands. “We took them. There were five of us representing Hawaii on the march.“

In our earlier story we had credited the pastor of Honolulu’s Kawaiahao Church, Rev. Abraham Akaka, who had befriended Dr. King the previous year, with sending the leis. He, in fact, may have been behind this effort in some way, but Nona, who delivered the flowers, doesn’t recall ever meeting Rev. Akaka or hearing of his involvement in this gesture. “I don’t know who organized on the leis,” she writes. “It was all on short notice and we showed up at the airport around 5 in the afternoon. There was no publicity or anything like that, we just said goodbye to some friends and left.  Taking leis was just something that anyone from Hawaii would do almost automatically.” Only after the march, when the leis had made their glorious statement, did the flowers inspire curiosity. Floral garlands around the neck weren’t, and still aren’t, a common sight in the Deep South.

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Posted by Julie on 08/18 at 02:46 PM
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